The Caribbean may not be an obvious eco-destination, but the industry trend towards sustainability is evident throughout the region, finds Sam Ballard
Think Caribbean and what springs to mind? Pristine beaches? Cruises to idyllic islands? Stays in luxury resorts? There is a world of possibility out there in what is a very sophisticated holiday market.
There are also a number of islands that are leading the charge when it comes to sustainability. Barbados is a great example: last April, the island put in place a ban on all single-use plastics. That included the “importation, retail, sale and use of petrol-based, single-use plastics on the island”, according to the tourist board. With more than 600,000 visitors every year, the changes mark the beginning of a sea change for the island.
“Banning single-use plastics goes some way to ensuring the protection of our pristine beaches and crystal clear waters that we are famous for,” says Cheryl Carter, UK director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. “As a destination, however, we realise that our sustainability efforts cannot stop there and we are proud to say we are embracing many conservation projects and methods across the island, from driving electric cars to biodynamic farming. We are excited for a more sustainable future.”
St Lucia has also made progress in this area. In June, the country passed its Styrofoam and Plastics (Prohibition) Act, declaring that imported styrofoam and certain plastic food containers would not be released by customs. The disposal and export would be the responsibility of the importer. The legislation, while not affecting travel directly, shows the ambitions of the government to tackle the issue of plastics. The Act took effect on August 1.
Jamaica is another country that is proving itself to be forward-thinking on a government level. The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM), a body designed to learn more about tourism resilience and create sustainable tourism models around the world, has been founded at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
In a statement, the GTRCM defined its goal as being “to assist global tourism destinations with destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally”.
With that kind of thinking coming from a governmental level, it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that there are a number of different ways to send your client on a sustainable holiday to the region.
G Adventures, the community tourism operator, offers an eight-day tour of Jamaica that takes guests around the entire island. Accommodation is made up of homestays and local hotels, while optional activities include a visit to Rick’s Café in Negril to watch the cliff jumpers and a boat ride to see the dolphins.
Whether it’s getting out into nature to spot dolphins, monkeys or turtles, the Caribbean offers a plethora of options for the sustainable traveller. Try Intrepid Travel’s Cuba programme, which starts in Havana and takes guests over to the Canarreos Archipelago to see colonies of iguanas and maybe even a turtle or two. Many of the islands here are uninhabited, helping the animal populations to flourish.
Other developments of note in the Caribbean’s ecotourism sphere include Leonardo DiCaprio’s planned resort on Blackadore Caye, a private island in Belize, which he has cited as being a “restorative” experience – for both the island and guests.
Speaking to The New York Times when announcing his plans, DiCaprio said: “The main focus is to do something that will change the world. I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.” The resort is due to open next year.
While the Caribbean hasn’t been a traditional destination for sustainable holidaymakers, it is clear that the overall trend in the industry is having an effect. It has never been easier to take a sustainable holiday to the idyllic region and enjoy the sun and sea, guilt-free.